REVISION: Badal for revision of national water policy
Author(s): City Air NewsPunjab CM Parkash Singh Badal participating in the deliberations in the 6th meeting of the National Water Resources Council at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi. New Delhi, December 28, 2012: Punjab Chief Minister Parkash...
New Delhi, December 28, 2012: Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today said that any revision in the national water policy should be based on the existing constitutional provisions and well recognised/ universally accepted riparian principles.
Participating in the deliberations in the 6th meeting of the National Water Resources Council chaired by the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh here at Vigyan Bhawan, the Chief Minister categorically said that, 'Water' was a State subject under Constitution and States have exclusive power of legislation on the subject.
He said that the distribution of powers under the federal structure of our Constitution should in no case be tinkered with by making changes in frame work of existing laws adding that each state has its own consideration in planning, management and use of its water resources which vary from region to region and state to state.
Badal also underlined that the distribution of water resources should be and must be based on universally accepted Riparian Principles and the existing usage and future needs of water of a riparian state must be protected as otherwise it would directly affect the growth of the State .
The Chief Minister said that inter- basin transfer of water based on equity and social justice would be in conflict with exclusive rights of people living in basin areas therefore Inter-basin transfer of water should not be resorted to.
The Chief Minister emphasised that water was a very critical subject, having strong economic, emotional and political implications adding that many of the tragic conflicts in the country were the result of a mishandling of this sensitive issue.
He said that a major part of the Punjab tragedy for which the entire country had to pay a huge and painful price for Centre’s refusal to address the river waters issue along the just and internationally and nationally accepted Riparian Principle.
Without mincing any words Badal said, “This is one of the many areas where our decision makers in New Delhi must show greater sensitivity, statesmanship and farsightedness in handling critical issues such as Water.”
Expressing strong reservations over the establishment of a water tariff system, fixation of the criteria for water charges, statutory empowerment of water users Associations, pricing of electricity and establishment of a Water Regulatory Authority under the draft National Water Policy- 2012, the Chief Minister vehemently opposed these matters and said that these should be left to the states for taking appropriate decision.
Badal asserted that Punjab being an agrarian state was opposed to the concept of integrated planning and management of river basins and setting up of basin authorities by legislation. He said that the interest of farming community was the foremost and could not be ignored for any proposed change in the framework of existing laws for controlling over-exploitation of ground water resources adding he said that any action for improving the ground water situation by adopting rain water harvesting, diversification of crops etc should be preferred over any coercive measures for regulating ground water.
The Chief Minister said, “Without prejudice to our consistent stand on riparian rights, Principles of equitable distribution of water should be well defined.” He unequivocally stated that Contribution made by each basin state to the catchment area of a river should be the main criteria for apportionment of water. Citing the Irrigation Commission Report 1972 which observed that the drainage area of Punjab in the Indus basin is 3 times that of Rajasthan and 5 times that of Haryana, Mr Badal rued that yet Punjab was allocated only about 25% share in Ravi-Beas waters whereas Rajasthan and Haryana were allocated about 50% and 22% respectively.
Objecting strongly to the draft national water policy-2012 concerning legislation for water development taking basin as a unit, water pricing and institutional arrangements, the Chief Minister made it amply clear that water was a state subject and the states alone were empowered to deal with the subject.
Apprehending direct infringement on the freedom of the states by way of imposing any integrated water resources management for the basin as a whole or sub-basin, Badal said that such purported move would deprive the states from their legitimate rights to plan, formulate and execute water supply schemes as per their needs. Allaying fears Badal said that any so called integrated water management for the basin as a whole would lead to more conflicts amongst the states.
Regarding ‘water pricing’, the Chief Minister said that Punjab was of the view that allocation and pricing of water could not be based purely on economic principles. Therefore he pleaded the establishment of water regulatory authority and fixation of water tariff system should be solely left to the states. Referring to the water users’ associations, Badal said that these associations have a useful role in minor irrigation only but their statutory empowerment to collect, fix and retain any water charges should be decided by the states.
Responding to the issue of institutional arrangements for a separate forum to deliberate upon issues relating to water as provided in the draft policy, he said that there was no such need as Northern Zonal Council already existed for this purpose.
Justifying the rationale behind providing subsidised irrigation to the Punjab farmers, the Chief Minister said all this was primarily done to compensate the farmers to some extent keeping in view their enormous contribution over the years in making India self-reliant in food production.
He pointed out that the price of agriculture produce of farmers was being fixed in an arbitrary manner which has made the farmers’ produce unremunerated. Above all the pricing of all the agricultural inputs was not under the control of farmers whereas sale prices of agricultural produce have always been unremunerative. It was a known fact that farming, all over the world, was being subsidised to enable the farmers to achieve sustainability and survival, which was essential for ensuring national food security.
Dwelling on the scenario of agrarian economy of the state, the Chief Minister pointed out that Punjab was a predominately Agricultural State and its agriculture was highly intensive and dependent on heavy requirement of water therefore, water was the life line of the Punjab farmers and the economy of the state . He said that hard work of farmers and its well organized and reliable Irrigation System has enabled the state to play a vital role in increasing agricultural production thereby making major contribution (over 50%) to the National Food Pool.
However Badal bemoaned that the water resources of the state compared to its requirement were grossly inadequate and the allocated surface water resources were being fully utilised but these do not fully meet the demand of agricultural sector thereby causing a great strain on ground water resources which were being over-exploited resulting in depletion of underground water resources of the state.
Reiterating his stand to revise the National Water Policy within the ambit of constitutional provisions and already settled Riparian principles, the Chief Minister again appealed the Centre that since the Water issue was a State subject so it must be left to the states to manage.
The Chief Minister was accompanied by Cabinet Minister Janmeja Singh Sekhon, Principal Secretary Irrigation KBS Sidhu and Principal Secretary to Chief Minister SK Sandhu.